The buzz on WSU's newest recruits

The 2002 Apple Cup seems to be getting off to an early -- and chilly -- start. Just hours after WSU and Washington wrapped up what one national analyst respectively rated the 29th and 21st best recruiting classes in the nation, the two coaching staffs were waging a subtle game of one-upmanship.

On KOMO Radio in Seattle, lead Dawg Rick Neuheisel and one of his assistants talked up newly signed QB Isaiah Stanback of Seattle's Garfield High as the best signal calling prospect in the nation.

Moreover, said they, when it comes to in-state recruiting the Huskies ALWAYS get whomever they want. Or at least darn near every one.

Given the fact that comment came shortly after DeMar Baisy's name was mentioned by host Chuck Nelson, one can only presume that it was a subtle jab at the Cougars. Baisy, you see, from Seattle's Rainier Beach High, de-committed from WSU late in the recruiting process to sign with Washington after the Dawgs lost several Californians they wanted for that scholarship slot.

On the other side of the state, meanwhile, Cougar head man Mike Price was analyzing his new class. "We had 28 commitments as of December 8. We lost two and went out and picked up two better guys, much better guys."

Take that, Slick Rick.

Without naming names, Price effectively said that by losing Baisy he was able to upgrade his class with linebacker/tight end/slotback Odell Howard of Pomona, Calif., who himself de-committed from UNLV to go crimson. The other kid the Cougars lost was WR/DB prospect Reggie Grigsby, who decided to stay home at San Diego State. Price replaced him with speed merchant receiver Robert Franklin of Gainesville, Texas, who also is a standout long jumper.

AS FOR QBs, Stanback is no doubt a tremendous prospect. But Price is just as high on the Cougars' newest gun, Carl Bonnell, a dual-threat three-year starter at Kentwood High in Kent. He was named the state's Class 4A player of the year by the Associated Press and earned a spot in the Tacoma News Tribune's Western 100 list.

"Bonnell is 6-3, 195, and runs a 4.4. He runs like a deer. This kid is going to be a big time player some day," Price gushed, noting that he played on a Wing-T running team and his receiving corps wasn't developed.

With a bevy of QBs already in the Cougar fold, Price plans to grayshirt Bonnell, effectively buying him an extra year of eligibility. Matt Mullenix, a 6-3, 235-pound linebacker/defensive end from tiny Spangle, Wash., is also likely to grayshirt.

National analyst Bobby Burton rates the Cougar class sixth best in the Pac-10 and No. 29 nationally. ESPN's Tom Lemming pens WSU in at No. 8 in the Pac, but still considers the Cougar class to be very solid.

A No. 29 showing is the best ever by WSU on signing day. The previous high was in 1999, when the Jeremey Williams, Matt Kegel, Deon Burnett class had most analysts pegging the Cougars at No. 35 or slightly better.

Price called this season's crop the fastest in school history. Five --- running backs Jonathon Smith and Jermaine Green, receivers Franklin and Sammy Moore, RB/DB/LB Steve Dildine, and Bonnell --- have clocked a 4.4 time in the 40. Another eight run 4.5 and four run 4.7.

Dildine, from Bethel High in Spanaway, Wash., was described by Price as "a gift dropped from heaven." He set a state record with 44 TDs this past season and became only the 27th player in state history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. The Tacoma News Tribune named him state player of the year.

"We are probably looking at Steve Dildine as a linebacker. I think he is going to fill out and be bigger. He has great speed. He runs like (Dave) Minnich, a cutter and slasher. He could be a running back. He's not as fluid and smooth because he's only played one year of football. This guy was a motor cross bike rider until his senior year. It was like a gift dropped in from Heaven. We got on him early. A cyclist turned football player is a first for us."

Price said Sammy Moore, a kick returner/receiver from Bakersfield CC, has the talent to make an instant mark on the Pac-10. "This kid is really a great talent at returns. He has a knack for it. He is a difference maker. He is going to come in and make a difference." WSU averaged only five yards per punt return 2001.

NOTABLE NOTES:

* Two more  recruits are expected to sign with the Cougars in the next day or two, Price said, with one of them being a running back. The odds-on-favorites for that RB slot would seem to be JC standouts Chris Bruhn, who originally signed with WSU out of high school, or Lionel Arnold, an early WSU verbal who has been rumored to have signed with Louisville or simply late in faxing his LOI to Price.

* Price said he needed to fill four spots with offensive linemen and he did in the form of Spencer Hollison (6-6, 270; named by SuperPrep Magazine as one of the top prospects in California/Hawaii/Nevada); Nick Mihlhauser (6-3, 275, named by LA Times as lineman of the year in the coastal region); long-snapper supreme Billy Petrick (6-5, 245), and Spokane's Charles Harris (6-6, 270), a grayshirt from a year ago.

* Given the depth on his 2002 team, Price says Petrick, because of his long-snapping skills, is perhaps the only prep signee in the class who will not redshirt this season.

* Spring workouts begin April 2.

* Price credited first-year recruiting coordinator Robin Pflugrad for putting together a plan that produced "amazing results."

* Defensive end Sean O'Connor of Redmond, who signed with Arizona State a year ago, did not enroll at ASU last fall and will be walking on at WSU this season, Price said.


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